Late this afternoon, Google Health Beta officially opened its doors for anyone to sign-up. While I did predict they would go live in the 2nd quarter, I was thinking end of the quarter, not the mid-point. Hat’s off to Google for moving so quickly.
As you know, I am at the TEPR conference trying to gather information and more importantly understand just why this conference is still in existence and more importantly, why it still attracts exhibitors as there is virtually no foot traffic, attendance is low and overall organization, well that is better left unsaid. Let’s just say that there is no WiFi and leave it at that.
But enough of TEPR, Google is the real story here (and far more interesting to tell). Following are some quick impressions and analysis.
What I really like:
Since I have a GMail account, sign-in to a Google Health Account was a breeze. Simply read the disclaimers (Terms of Service and Sharing Agreements), agree to them and you are on your way. – Loved It! And those disclaimers and privacy statement are similar to Microsoft HealthVault’s, forthright and easy to understand.
Out of the box connections with a number of data providers including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Cleveland Clinic, a lot of medication related services (Walgreens, Medco, Longs Drug, and Rx America). Somewhat surprising that CVS/Caremark link is not about medications, but clinicals from Minute Clinic. Likewise, you don’t get clinicals from Walgreens’ retail clinics, only meds. Odd.
They also provide ability to link to Quest Diagnostics so one can get their lab results imported into their Google Health account.
Google Health also provides an ability to link to a number of third party services, including PHR providers Medem, MyMedicalRecords and NoMoreClipboard (each of these vendors as well as Google Health is profiled in our PHR Market Report, that will be available for purchase later this week – drop an email to: info @ chilmarkresearch.com if interested), advocacy groups such as the American Heart Assoc. and LIVESTRONG.COM, Cleveland Clinic’s second opinion service MyConsult and several other services. Some charge a fee for services while others are free, all stated clearly on the Google Health site (though no actual pricing for services is provided).
The real beauty of both features above is that Google provides clear linkages to partner sites. When you click on those links, from within your Google Health account, you are taken to a secure page (https) on the partner’s site where you are clearly asked to sign-in to begin the authentication process and have your records transfered to your Google Health account, or sign-up for a service.
Unlike the less than stellar launch of Microsoft HealthVault, where you clicked on a partner link only to be sent into God knows where, Google has worked closely with this initial set of partners to make it very clear where you have landed and what to do next. Bravo Google.
The interface is clean, crisp and intuitive. Nothing to clutter the eyes/mind as you navigate around the site. This is so unlike most major PHR providers today who seem compelled to barrage you with a visually noisy website experience.
Working with partner SafeMed, the site provides medication interaction checking for the consumer to assist them with managing multiple medications and minimizing adverse drug events. Google Health is supporting such standards as SNOMED CT & ICD-9 (both used for diagnosis/condition coding), LOINC (lab data), and NDC & RxNorm (both used for medications). Google is also supporting a slightly modified form of the CCR standard (which is quickly becoming the defacto standard for PHRs), that they call CCR/G.
What still needs work:
While they have partnered with a number of pharmacy companies and a couple of providers, that is far from capturing the broader market and really making life easier for the average consumer (i.e., a PHR that can self-populate and stay updated without a lot of consumer feeding). An obvious choice is data from health insurers (payers). Payers, arguably, have the largest trove of consumer health data, data that often includes lab results, medications and treatments. Granted, claims data is not as rich as clinical data, but there are very few practices today with as sophisticated digital clinical record keeping practices as Cleveland Clinic and Beth Israel. Google will have to get payers on board to make this work.
Retail clinics, who most often are already using CCR are an obvious link/partner for Google. CVS’s Minute Clinic is a good start, but where is Walgreens’ own clinics and will Google extend out to those corporate campus clinics that Walgreens just purchased? I really can’t criticize Google for this last point as Walgreens did just acquire these clinics, but would have like to have seen Google at least, in some fashion address the employer market for these solutions.
Missing any place to put advanced directives.
No capabilities yet to assist a consumer in managing their health savings account. Be a nice opportunity for Google and Intuit to partner.
Site would hang-up on me occasionally, but that may be more of a function of this terrible hotel Internet connection, than Google.
Was not all that impressed with the search engine for finding a doctor. When I entered my doctor’s last name and city, got back a number of hits but they were all peripheral – not a single one giving me contact details or for that matter even identifying my doctor. Wasted effort for me.
Lastly, an odd thing happened in testing the link to Quest Diagnostics. When I landed on the Quest site, it requested a PIN to sign-in to begin transfer process. Well, I don’t think I even have a PIN with Quest so I backed out of the site. Yet, later, noticed on the landing page of my Google Health, the Quest banner for finding a Quest location or scheduling an appointment. Really looked more like an advertisement to me as I certainly didn’t request the banner and now have to figure out how to remove it.
While I am sure I’ll find other small quibbles regarding Google Health, all in all, it is difficult to find anything really major to dislike about this offering. My biggest gripe would be that it is too thin, both from a tools /functionality provided perspective and partners from which to import data. These are very important issues but they are also issues that Google should be readily able to address in the future if the have the mind to do so.
And is that really, at the end of the day what matters most?
Will Google and Microsoft stick it out and stay in the healthcare market long enough to see the tide change and the apathetic consumer turn into a proactive and engaged healthcare consumer. This sector is fraught with challenges which I have written about before and it is going to take time to address them. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that these two companies have the patience to stick with it as I really do not see any other companies in the market that have the breadth of resources to make this happen.
The more I look at this market, the more I am convinced that needed change in the healthcare sector will come from the outside via greater direct engagement of the consumer in managing their health. And that will require giving the consumer the tools to do just that. Something which both Google and Microsoft are on track to provide.
Google Health FAQ
Beth Israel’s CIO’s Impressions (Note: As he was part of Google’s Advisory team, you won’t find a critical, unbiased view).
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